A step-parent adoption in Michigan helps provide for the needs of children of single parents or those in blended families. It replaces an absentee or unfit legal parent of a child with the spouse of that child’s custodial parent. In other words, it allows stepparents to step into the role of the child’s legal parent, with all the rights and obligations that come with that title.
Step-parents play a vital role in the health, support, and well-being of children. They help with homework, care for the child at home, provide for the family’s needs, even talk to pediatricians and teachers on the child’s behalf (with a valid parental power of attorney). When things are going well, it may feel like there is no difference between your child’s legal parent and their step-parent.
However, when conflict arises, it raises the question of whether step-parents have rights in Michigan courts. The short answer is no. A step-parent is not a legal guardian in Michigan. While there are very limited exceptions under the Equitable Parent Doctrine, Michigan courts generally will not give any legal weight to a relationship between step-parent and stepchild unless there has been a step-parent adoption. This can lead to problems when:
To protect your rights and your stepchild, step-parents can file for a step-parent adoption in the family division of the appropriate circuit court. To do that, the step-parent must:
Believe it or not, this is a shortcut to the standard adoption process. It is important to note again that you must be the spouse of the parent awarded custody for Michigan adoption laws to allow you to use this abbreviated process and avoid court supervision.
When everyone agrees, a step-parent adoption doesn’t have to be a complicated or expensive process. However, when a non-custodial parent or biological father or mother withholds consent, it can cause problems and increase the cost of the step-parent adoption. It is possible to get a step-parent adoption without a biological father’s or mother’s consent. However, you and your attorney will have to prove:
Parental termination cases are often contested. Even an absentee mother or “putative father” (whose biological relationship to the child hasn’t been proven) can feel like their child is being taken away and fight back. If you are not able to get the non-custodial parent’s consent before filing your adoption petition, you should be sure to work with a team of experienced step-parent adoption attorneys to advocate for your child, your family, and your rights as a step-parent. Schedule a consultation to discuss your specific situation and get help bringing your family together under one legal umbrella.